Fort McCoy News Nov. 13, 2015

Ammo supply instructors learn about railcar loading

Public Affairs Staff

Instructors with the 13th Battalion, 100th Regiment partnered with Burlington-Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railway personnel to practice loading ammunition pallets on railcars during training in late October.

The 13th, 100th is an ordnance battalion that provides training and training support to Soldiers in the ordnance maintenance military occupational specialty (MOS) series. The unit, aligned under the 3rd Brigade, 94th Division of the 80th Training Command, has been a tenant organization at Fort McCoy since 1995.

The railcar training began with BNSF personnel providing a two-hour classroom overview about what types of railcars used to haul cargo. The training then moved to a practical exercise, which included loading a railcar at the installation's railyard near Highway 21 on Fort McCoy's South Post. Soldiers with the 13th, 100th provided a forklift and simulated ammunition pallets to conduct the training.

Photo 1
Instructor Sgt. 1st Class Robert Lower with the 13th Battalion, 100th Regiment, which conducts ammunition supply specialist training at Fort McCoy, uses a forklift to move cargo to a boxcar as part of training on how
to properly load railcars.

"This showed them how to load ordnance on a railcar so they can transport it across country safely without any damage," said Bob Coulter, manager of load-and-ride systems at BNSF.

A company representative with Superior Packaging Inc. of Duluth, Minn., also was on hand to show the types of material used to properly secure and protect a load of ordnance in a railcar while it travels. Material, such as cardboard packaging used to load and secure cargo during transportation, is referred to as dunnage.

Coulter said load planning and dunnage use all are factors in how a railcar is loaded. "(Transporting ordnance) requires a lot of thought and planning, and you have to have the right equipment," he said.

The railcar used in the training is 50 feet long and not quite 10 feet wide. Though it is older than most railcars in use today, Coulter said the Soldiers were able to see how much larger it is than other storage and transport methods that have been used.

"This is the same basic idea as loading a (shipping container) — it's just on a larger scale," Coulter said.

Instructor Sgt. 1st Class Douglas Dobitz with the 13th, 100th helped organize the training. He said it's necessary for all instructors to be well-versed in railcar loading, as the unit's training mission will expand in coming years.

Beginning in fiscal year 2017, the 13th, 100th will begin teaching senior and advanced leadership courses for the Army's 89B career field.

"We hope to take this now and pass it on to our students through our program of instruction," Dobitz said. "It does not make us experts by any means, but it gives us basic knowledge and valuable resources.

"Shipping ammunition can be a dangerous thing, so actually being able to go in and look at how a railcar is loaded (with ammunition pallets) really makes sense as to how it should be done," Dobitz said. "Eventually, we will bring the students out here and show them how this is done as well."

Photo 2
Bob Coulter (left), manager of load-and-ride systems with Burlington-
Northern Santa Fe Railway, describes the capabilities of a boxcar as part
of the railcar-loading training.

Sgt. 1st Class Robert Lower, also an instructor with the 13th, 100th, said learning more about the capabilities of rail transportation of ammunition was beneficial.

"I enjoyed it," Lower said. "It's something that is different and I think it's going to be very useful for our students."

For Instructor Sgt. 1st Class Sarah Johnson, understanding the specific requirements for loading a railcar is key to how the 13th, 100th will implement the training through their program of instruction.

"This was really good training," Johnson said. "Seeing it firsthand is important to me because we want to get it right when we start training students on this process."

Dobitz said that when the 89B Senior Leadership Course and Advanced Leadership Course begin in 2017, the students will learn more than just the basics of railcar loading.

"Those students are going to have to actually plan the railcar loads," Dobitz said. "They'll see a drawing as part of a plan, but they will have to plan it from there. Plus, being able to load railcars might be considered a lost skill for some of our students. This will bring those skills back to our career field."

For more information, call the 13th, 100th at 608-388-5479.